WADI DAYQAH DAM, Oman (VN) — As the sport’s top names came out to fight late on Thursday in Oman, Bobbie Traksel and his Champion System team kept at it, racing for the Tour of Oman’s most aggressive jersey and for China.
Unlike the race’s first three days, which each saw Traksel on the attack, it was teammate Matthias Friedemann up the road on Thursday, scooping up bonus points to defend the Dutchman’s jersey.
“For our team, it’s very important to carry this jersey to the last day,” Traksel told VeloNews. “There are so many big names here, so for us to have a guy on the podium next to them on the final day is perfect for the only pro Asian team.”
The most aggressive rider classification in Oman is determined by a combination of intermediate sprint points from each of the six stages. Traksel leads Christian Delle Stelle (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox) by nine points with two stages remaining.
“We are all focused on helping Bobbie keep the combative jersey,” Friedemann said. “Today it was my job to get into the breakaway to give Bobbie a little rest.”
Former Navigators manager Ed Beamon leads the Champion System team, which is registered in China and has a diversely international feel. Beamon, who has spent stints at Team Type 1 and Fly V Australia, has known Traksel since the Pegasus Sports disaster of late 2010, when the American recruited him to the failed team.
Traksel, 31, joined Champion System for two reasons: to lead in the classics and to mentor the Asians. If it all works out, said Traksel, Champion System will the first Asian team in the Tour de France.
“There are so many people and so much talent there. Once they learn about the racing then for sure we’ll see a Chinese Tour winner,” Traksel said. “There are so many Chinese people in the world; there should be at least one Brad Wiggins in that country and we are trying to find him.”
In Oman, Traksel races with a Euro-Asian roster that features China’s Gang Xu and Pengda Jiao. Race organizer ASO invited the team to the Tours of Qatar and Oman — nearly two weeks of shoulder-to-shoulder racing with riders like Wiggins (Sky), Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing).
“I remember in Qatar, if there were guys from BMC or other teams, they’d ride two metrers to their sides. We need to show what we can do; then they’ll have respect for us and our place in the peloton. That’s important for the young Chinese guys who are really talented, but need to learn how to fight and race,” Traksel said. “We don’t say that we are going to do the Tour tomorrow; we are not yet ready. However, we are fighting for that eventual position. We are making good advertising for our sponsors and perhaps bringing in other sponsors along the way. Yeah, we are the first pro cycling team in Asia, and we will be the first Asian team in the Tour de France.”
Besides aggressive jerseys, Traksel has his own ambitions over the coming two months. He won the Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne semi-classic in 2010 and said he wants to add another northern classic to his palmares.
After Oman, he and the team will race Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (Circuit Het Nieuwsblad), Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and the KBC Driedaagse van De Panne-Koksijde (Three Days of De Panne).
“I need to make results there. We need to make results as a team because we want more invitations for the bigger races because we need to race every day we can get,” he said. “My big goal is Dwars Door Vlaanderen. We don’t have that invitation yet, so this jersey helps.”